She’s won over Jay Z and Madonna and has Hollywood banging at her door. Now Simon Cowell has signed her up as a judge on The X Factor. Stephanie Rafanelli talks to Rita Ora about break-ups, frenemies and making music with Prince
Rita Ora has a knack for inspiring devotion from musical legends. While recording in London last year, Prince wrote a paean, ‘Pink Champagne’, dedicated to her ebullience. Then he summoned her to his Paisley Park HQ near Minneapolis, resplendent in ‘a mustard-coloured poloneck, purple flares and an amazing black Afro. I’ve never seen a man who wears heels get so much female attention. He is sexy in so many ways,’ Ora declares, after striding into an East End studio, wearing the kind of platform boots that would make his royal not-so-highness proud, if a little envious.
He had invited her to record among the doves that he keeps in his studio: ‘We just wrote a bunch of music, laughed and danced.’ There, the poem evolved into ‘Champagne Kisses’, a song for her forthcoming second album. ‘If music had a face, it would be Prince.’
When Ora was still an aspiring teen musician, her mother once told her prophetically: ‘Not everyone will wish you well, but those that do will have more power than those that don’t.’ It could be the motto of her career. Her list of powerhouse mentors include Jay Z, who signed her at 18, and Beyoncé, her ‘sister from another mister’; Madonna, who chose Ora as the face of the fashion line Material Girl for S/S 2014; Tom Ford, who dressed her for this year’s Met Ball — ‘He’s a swaggy, swagger gentleman’ — and Harvey Weinstein, who, after her small role in this year’s Fifty Shades of Grey, is championing her acting career: ‘Harvey’s got my back and I’ve got his.’ And now Simon Cowell, who last week poached her from the BBC to join Nick Grimshaw on the new and improved X Factor panel, replacing Mel B. All this with less than three years in the mainstream public consciousness and, hitherto, only one solo album under her belt.